Sunday, October 11, 2015

No Refuge

This started out as a much longer (angrier) post, but as I was getting closed to finished with it, I realized that I didn't have anything new to add the topic of the Syrian refugee crisis that you can't find somewhere else. Mostly, I just want to bring it back into view - even though it's painful - because I find myself so easily calloused against tragedy when I'm asked to care so much about something new every week, even when all of those other things may be truly tragic. I don't want these people to get lost in our hearts because we have more recent things to be troubled by.

{I found this beautiful song, a "re-written version of the Palestinian folk song 'Tareek Ateet,' which grieves the loss of their Syrian homeland to war," if you want to listen while you read.}

When a world (or even local) event becomes too complicated for me to understand, I move on to other things calling for my attentions and my emotions, and I'm fighting to combat that in myself and in those around me.

Yesterday morning I was scrolling through HONY's (Humans of New York) stories and photos of Syrian refugees, and the ones that grip me most are the ones about people who are helping in the face of insurmountable numbers of those who need help. Maybe those ones get to me because I can relate more to them than to the refugees themselves. Some of the refugee's stories are so terrible, I simply can not imagine it, and therefore can not process the emotions that they should illicit in me. I moved on with my day thinking that only people who have suffered relatively little at the hands of others have the luxury of believing that humans are basically good beings.

{all the photos in this post are from here, click through to read captions. Many of them are too heavy for me to post here without you being prepared to look at them, but they deserve your attention none the less. }

HONY interviewed a family who is helping refugees, themselves inspired by a priest who recently passed away. They said that the last thing the priest posted online before his death was, "God is Love with no asterisks." That is what I have chosen to hold on to, even though I don't understand it fully. I do not trust myself to believe in the love of God should I face the suffering that almost every Syrian refugee has faced. Consider that half of the 19.5 million refugees in the world today - more than at any other time in history - are children. Consider what they have witnessed, and trust that our faith in God is only strong because He allows it to be. I have heard children say they would rather have never been born than see what they have seen.

Oh my great God, have you forsaken them? 

I become disgusted at myself and my ambitions when I read the accounts of refugees, but I have to remind myself that because of the abundance I have, I am in a position to help other people. It will be a terrible thing for any of us to stand before God Almighty someday and stammer out an excuse for why we were "too overwhelmed" by the plight of others to help them.

Much of what I've seen in the news recently is about Europeans opening their homes and their countries to Syrian refugees. I'm so thankful for every one who has made that personal sacrifice, especially when I realize what a big commitment it is for an individual and a nation to host the volume of refugees currently seeking asylum.

As impractical as this may sound, it's not my problem to worry about the logistics of accepting refugees nor to worry about why Gulf states aren't accepting as many refugees as we think they should. Jesus did not call his followers to solve political problems, he called us to care for widows and orphans.

Proverbs 31:8-9
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Leviticus 19:34
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Let us not be so fixated on the threat of internal attacks from ISIS that we ignore the much larger issue at stake.  As I see it, ISIS can find a way to cause mayhem with or without "boots on the ground", and it is better to give refuge to the 99% who truly need refuge than keep everyone out for fear of the 1% of troublemakers who we are already grappling with, no matter their location.

I wish that we could pick a new slogan for honoring 9/11 victims beside "never forget". First of all,
we are not in danger of forgetting. Secondly, as was pointed out on Facebook, more often than not when I hear that phrase "never forget", there's a heavy unspoken suffix of " and never forgive". Once again, I would implore those who profess faith in Christ to stay far away from that attitude.

It also seems to me that we have bigger problems in the U.S. right now than those that would be caused by an influx of refugees. For example, grappling with our own racial inequality issues and the intense level of violent crime (compared to other first world countries). Even taking our shortcomings into account, we have too much to offer to hoard it to ourselves in fear while others risk the death of their children to come to our doorstep, only to be turned away because of their ancestry. Let me point out that this extends to Mexicans and other refugees from Central and South America, for many of them are fleeing for their lives.

As this blogger points out (in reference to some Europeans reportedly only being willing to harbor Christian refugees). "If we’re not willing to help our neighbors in need regardless of who they are and without precondition, then we’ve completely abandoned the way of Jesus."

I want to let the plight of refugees continue to make my own life uncomfortable, sharing even a sliver of their burden, because the smallest dignity I can show a refugee is to share in their grief as much as I am able.

I don't really have anything else to say, and I'm worried that this post doesn't flow well or really build an argument or that you'll think it's sappy, but that's not really the point. I'm simply trying to figure out my own place in answering the call Christ has put in my path and trying to bring even a tiny bit of awareness to how perhaps you can too.

The man in the picture below has made it safely across the sea, just as the photo is taken. I want that to be the face of the refugee crisis instead of families torn apart and turned away from safety, and we do have some power to aid in them reaching safety. I can't help but imagine his face as the embodiment of what it must feel like to reach heaven and leave every tear behind. I think I have no other choice than to trust that there is a God waiting for me at the end of all of this, and I am going to feel just like this man when I get to meet him face to face.

Christ says, come to me, and I will give you rest.
Death says, come to me, and forget your misery.
Lady Liberty wants to cry out, "come to me", but her mouth is stuffed with the fears
of the comfortable and complacent.
The whole Earth groans under the weight of thy stumbling feet.
Waves of tears well up in me as waves of the Aegean well over you.

Some Helpful Resources:

I recently saw this comic strip explaining how the conflict in Syria began and I hadn't heard any of it before!

An excellent children's book about a family fleeing to the U.S. as refugees. I had this book growing up and I remember being able to digest some of the fear felt by the characters. Reading it as an adult, it's not too heavy for children, but realistic enough to help them understand what it might be like.

I've seen or heard of this from at least three different platforms, but here is how to begin to get your Church family involved in helping refugees. I just submitted the form to get the ball rolling in my own Church (little do they know, haha!), and though it terrifies me a little bit, I would be a hypocrite not to give it my best shot.

Here is an excellent list of practical ways to help refugees in Europe RIGHT NOW. I was hesitant when I first saw this link because I have very little to give in the way of money, but I ended up giving $5 to the Jungle Library. It makes me happy to share my love of books and know that even $5 is enough to buy at least one book, which has the power to change someone's life.

If you are a fashion conscience parent of fashionable babes, one of my fellow Instagram shops, @chalkmarks, is run by a woman who is an immigration lawyer (representing immigrants) in LA. This is not a charity account, but I still like supporting individuals who stand for something admirable.

Let us not rest until we have extended the love and refuge of Christ, our own arms, and our own country to every man, woman, and child in need of it. 

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